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The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire
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Catherine (catjackson) I've just started the book and am really surprised at Genghis Khan places so much power in the hands of women. That was not what I expected. Not only did they rule in the house, he placed them in positions of power over entire groups. I didn't expect to like this book as much as I do. Back to reading.

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Lashya Wilson | 35 comments This book is on my "To-Read" Shelf !!!!!!!!!!!!

Heather | 176 comments I've read quite a bit on the Mongols but this is the first time I've heard the stories about the women.

Anne (papergirl42) | 328 comments Anne..... The Secret History of the Mongol Queens......WOMEN'S LIBERATION In MONGOLIA 15th. CENTURY....
We don' t learn why Ghengis Khan put so must trust and power in his daughters, but they didn't let him down. Why did he assign his sons to less powerful military positions instead of putting them in charge of the Mongol dominions? We'll never learn why because of the fractured nature of the "secret history of the Mongols." But his daughters were up to the challenges and kept peace for a long time. Not until Ghengis Khan died did his unification of the Mongols begin to fall apart. His sons who loved the high life of strong drink and debauchery were weak in the face of those trying to steal chunks of the empire.
Monduhai, the woman who had the restoration of the empire at heart, reunified the Mongol nation bringing north, south east and west together under one rule after centuries. She was remarkable because she must have had an innate sense of strategic planning which enabled her and her adopted son Dayan khan to succeed in their quest.

I liked this book very much because I learned so much. Weatherford's style was easy to read and he used lots of narrative stories to illustrate his points. I found the fact that because of the widespread illiteracy of the Mongols, they used songs and poems to remember their history and governmental laws.

Rusty Tobin (tobinrr47gmailcom) | 230 comments I knew absolutely nothing about the Mongols and Ghengis Kahn so I found this book very informative. The culture was very interesting but I'm not sure that a belief in the necessity of a balance between male and female makes the Mongols a society of gender equality. Certainly the author demonstrates that some women were allowed to take active parts in ruling the Empire but there was never an opportunity for a woman to become Khan. I think the most important aspect of the book is Weatherford's demonstration of how easily women have been written out of history and assumed to have had no influence.

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I read Weatherford's Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World before this one, so I had some context. It seemed that though women had more power than in other cultures, you were generally still in better shape if you were male.

Heather | 176 comments I agree with Rusty that it is amazing how easily they were written out of a most illiterate society by just cutting the pages out of the one book available.

message 9: by AJ (new) - rated it 2 stars

AJ (ame-less) | 11 comments Just bought the book, hoping to catch up to the discussion!

Heather | 17 comments Just finished Widow of the South so now starting this book and anxious to get into it

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Hock Tjoa (hockgtjoa) I have got to read this book this year! The Secret History of the Mongol Queens How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford

message 12: by Diane, Armchair Tour Guide (last edited Jan 13, 2013 07:55PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 12851 comments I am on the last 75 pages of the book and find this era in history quite fascinating.

It is amazing how a man of humble beginnings from a sparsely populated and isolated country could become ruler of the powerful Mongol Empire. Genghis Khan clearly thought "outside the box". His strategies included distributing power to the female members of his family, and were quite successful. His daughters seemed to follow in his footsteps and were shrewd and strategic leaders in their own right. His sons were portrayed as a bunch of alcoholics.

Things fell apart after Genghis' death, due to generations of corruption and debauchery. The more his descendants strayed from Genghis' laws and principles, the more the empire began to disintegrate. The book highlights the important role of women over several generations during the Mongol Empire.

I really enjoy Weatherford's writing style. The book is a very easy read for a history book. It is very engaging and hard to put down. There are some gaps and inconsistencies in the historical records, due to poor record-keeping (mainly due to illiteracy) and the destruction of portions of the recorded history. Weatherford has managed to make the book flow smoothly despite of this.

I can totally see how Genghis Khan is considered to be a hero among his people. He was an extremely effective leader and was able to create and maintain an amazing empire during his lifetime. He is usually portrayed in a more unfavorable light as one of history's bad guys.

Great book. I look forward to reading Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, which I actually own, but hadn't been that interested in reading until now.

message 13: by AJ (new) - rated it 2 stars

AJ (ame-less) | 11 comments Thanks to an unexpected sick day, I've finished already. I only rated the book two stars, though I may upgrade to three after it sits for awhile.

The subject matter is fascinating, but because there is so little available in terms of source material, the depth is lacking. As a result, the author's attempts to fit the history he has cobbled together into his overarching theme seems weak and conclusory, but not supported. However, if you're struggling to finish, the third part is probably the best.

It would have benefited from maps (unless this is a function of the ebook - anyone have hard copy?) showing the expansion of rulers to certain regions.

The most interesting parts of the book were when the author shared detailed descriptions of some of the day-to-day rituals of the Mongols and I suspect he taps into his extensive research from his book on Gengis Khan. Also fascinating was the long reach of the Mongol intermarriages that led to connections to the Dalai Lama, Chinese dynasties, and the prince who built the Taj Mahal.

It does raise interesting questions about why, with some apparent attempts at a 'enlightened' rule, or at least one intended to not merely advance his own interests, the Khan's heirs passed through quickly into brutality and dissolution. Was there simply not to enough of a cultural norm of the laws and customs that he tried to promote? And what was up with the Secret History? I'm still a little confused about who, why, when? (I'm blaming the cold medicine.)

Courtney | 195 comments I listened to this on audiobook while driving back and forth to work (and jury duty!). Consequently, I can't spell anyone's names. :-)

I agree with earlier commenters that Manduhai stood out as the heroine of the book. Her story was also one of the most interesting--perhaps there were the most details to her story? (Another downfall of listening in the car is that I'm not quite sure what proportion of the book was devoted to various sections, people, time periods, etc. )

And like AJ, I also enjoyed the details of day-to-day life and the connections to other well-known historical figures.

I'm torn as to whether the Mongols seemed to have treated women better than other contemporary societies did. (I think the subtitle led me to expect women to have a more prominent, powerful role in Mongol society. I kept listening for some confirmation of this idea throughout the book.) Weatherford certainly highlights some exceptional women in his book, but I'm sure all societies have exceptional women. While Mongol women did seem to reign supreme in the ger, that also seems in line with the general Western view of women as rulers of home and hearth. Genghis Khan's daughters and female descendants did appear much more capable of maintaining his empire than the sons/male descendants. And Genghis Khan set down a number of laws regarding the treatment and rights of women. However, after his death, many of these laws seem to have been forgotten, and women were the victims of some of the most brutal acts of the warring clans. Anyone else want to weigh in?

AJ also brings up the "Secret History." I, too, wanted some more info on what was so secret, etc., etc. In thinking about it again now, I wonder if the epilogue/afterword (What did he call the end? Must not have been listening carefully when it was announced! Ooops!) was meant to clarify that a bit. I recall Weatherford implying that he pieced together some (much?) of Manduhai and the other women's stories from songs and tales still told in Mongolia today. Perhaps these songs and tales are the "secret history?" Though the women's roles were literally cut out of the written history, their history has survived in the oral traditions and memories of the people. Weatherford admits that he himself initially discounts these tales as the typical legends of any people about their revered past rulers, giving a sort of mythical status to the daughters/female descendants of Genghis Khan. I can't recall if he explicitly states or if I just made the assumption that Weatherford uses these tales to fill in the gaps in the official Mongol history and likewise, uses the history to authenticate the stories. Does anyone else recall what he says here? (Returned my copy of the audiobook to the library today...maybe I should request a copy the book just to reread the end & skim a few other sections...)

Meanwhile, I'd better go add Weatherford's book on Genghis Khan to my reading/listening list too!

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Lashya Wilson | 35 comments I prefer to only read books. You miss too much if you listen to them.

I have sampled listening + reading along, and that also works for me, because I'm a very slow reader !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Karine | 1 comments I see that most people rated the book highly. Even though it was very informative on the history and culture of Mongolia, I felt that it was sometime too long and missing family trees and maps. I appreciate the great discovery about women's role in the history of Mongolia, but I found that only the last part was truly exciting.

Courtney | 195 comments Osho wrote: "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World is in the Audible 48 hour sale right now."


Virginia | 5 comments I am almost half way through the book and am just LOVING IT! I am an archaeologist and have studied the Silk Road extensively, but never really heard any of these stories about Mongolian women. This book reads more like a story than a non-fiction account and I really appreciate that. I am in the midst of the Mongolian takeover of Nishapur and am loving the poet Omar Khayyam and want to read more by him. I love his description of the fate of Persian rule in Central Asia by saying "Whether at Nishapur or Babylon, the Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop; the Leaves of Life keep falling one by one" (pg. 76). Also, the chronicles of Juvaini are hilarious. His comment about the rebelious state of mind of the people of Nishapur as "'The demon of temptation laid an egg in the brains of mankind'" is amazing! (pg. 74). I really hope the book continues this way.

message 19: by Bryn (last edited Jan 27, 2013 04:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) I'm new here, but enthusiastic about Jack Weatherford's work on Mongol history. His Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World certainly caused a splash and made people aware of what they weren't.

On women in steppe societies - do you mind if I make a rec? This is a fantastic book, recently out, about societies nearby/next door to the Mongols -- other steppe nomads. It's a history that has been neglected, women in steppe society. That's where Jack Weatherford comes in, and this book too:
Women of the Conquest Dynasties: Gender and Identity in Liao and Jin China

I'll admit now I five-starred "Making of the Modern World" and only three-starred "Mongol Queens." Simply because I felt his first had more content, more new ideas. Even I found "Queens" a little tediously written. I thought there was more to explore. I hope he follows up on the subject.

message 20: by Bryn (last edited Jan 28, 2013 01:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) I've meant to give this a second read, and here's my opportunity. On p.74 and I think I did this book an injustice, I bet I'll have to up my stars.

I think I was impatient with this because he takes incidents from 'The Secret History of the Mongols' and stretches them over pages, in a story-telling way, and I was thinking 'get on with the information'. But I don't mind this way of writing history, which he does in "Making of the Modern World" too. It is interpretative history, as in, the details of these story-like parts are his interpretation. That's fine.

If people are interested, here's a couple of his sources:
Genghis Khan: The History Of The World Conqueror -- that's the Juvaini. A wonderful read, stuffed with fact and fancy.
The Secret History of the Mongols -- with a choice of several translations.

Virginia | 5 comments I have just finished the book and like others I became very disappointed. I am an anthropologist and have studied the silk road and wish that there was more actual documentation and context. The epilogue almost made me mad because I had assumed that he was using historical evidence but it seems that much of his information has been inferred. Interesting read, but definitely could have been more.

message 22: by Bryn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) I'll just pop in to say I've upped from three stars to four, on a second read. I do have issues, but value the book.

I'd agree that it needs to be much more documented.

My new review...

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